Samantha’s Cafe

School-Wide Read

Some really good energy happening on the Forte front!

Recently, I got word that Forte was the winner of this year’s school-wide read at my alma mater, Lake George Junior/Senior High School. Hooray!

LG School Wide Read Winner

LG School Wide Read Winner 2015

I reached out to the school’s librarian to learn how exactly my book was chosen. Her response:

Every year during our Teen Read celebration at the high school I select 4 books, which fit with our theme for that year’s celebration. This year we celebrated Teen Read Week with Bookopoly, and an exploration of genres, so I selected books from all different genres.  We then share a “voting ballot” with students.  The voting happens during Guideroom, and the ballot includes a “hook question” for each title.  We then tally the votes to decide our “School Wide Read” for the year.  This year it was Forte that students selected, which gives us an ideal platform for your visit.

The fact that *students* picked the book made the news even sweeter. We’re working on a date for an author visit in May.

In the meantime, there are some cool local events coming up.

December 21: Queensbury High School author visit. My mom taught at Queensbury for 25 years and my children go to school in the district, so I’m looking forward to this one. Three sessions are booked for the day, with a holiday luncheon in between.

January 7, 2016: author visit Southern Adirondack Education Center, Hudson Falls, NY. As a follow up to my visit at Myers Center in Saratoga, an attending teacher requested I come to this BOCES facility for another two sessions. Students have expressed interest in both Catcher’s Keeper and Forte, so we will be discussing both.

January 8, 2016: author visit to William H. Barton Intermediate School. I’ll be visiting my son’s classroom, reading a scene of his choice from Forte — the halloween scene.

January 12, 2016: Authors & Artists, Samantha’s Cafe, Glens Falls, NY *open to the public*. In May of 2014, I presented as part of Samantha’s Authors & Artists program for Catcher’s Keeper — to a full house. Now at a new location on the main drag of Glens Falls, Samantha’s Cafe has always been exceptionally supportive of the local arts. Love them for that.

June 1, 2016: guest speaker Academy for Lifelong Learning, SUNY Empire State College. This came through a connection at the Chronicle Book Fair on November 8. I’ll be part of their 8-week spring speaker series, presenting to adults about how life experiences inform fiction writing.

One of my goals for 2016 is to get my latest novel — Paradox Lake — agented and/or contracted for publication. It’s in the beta-reader phase now … and so far all responses have been very positive.

All this is great, but the acknowledgment and support from my alma mater has really made my holiday. It will be neat to walk those familiar halls not as a student or teacher or parent … but as the author of the Winner of the School-Wide Read.



Countdown to LAUNCH!

A month from today, on July 25, 2015, my second novel — FORTE — will make its way into the world, officially.

JD Spero's FORTE cover


It will be my first novel launched by a legit publisher, Xchyler Publishing. After starting the book nearly 4 years ago, I’m ridiculously eager to see it in print. In November of 2014 I signed with Xchyler after a friend who did publicity for them urged me to submit. As I mentioned in my blog post — It Takes a Village — I was hesitant, sure I would once again self-publish. I had gone through multiple revisions and alternate titles, hired 2 content editors on my own, and enlisted my trusty line editor to start the final touches when Xchyler’s offer came through.

Many have asked specifics about what it’s like to work with a team of editors in a publishing house. Let me give some examples.

Before we actually started work on the story, the team filled out a manuscript assessment, answering questions like: What is the major dramatic question and how is it answered? What are the strengths of the author’s voice? Weakness? What is the major conflict? How is it resolved? Strength/weaknesses of protagonist/antagonist… The list goes on.

I filled out a detailed character timeline to show how events overlap, even before the time in which the book is set. I wrote a detailed backstory about the Mom character — details that never made it into the book but indirectly helped make Mom’s character more realistic. My editors came at me with dozens of smart questions about how the story worked, revealing gaps or inconsistencies. After explaining how the magic and prophecy works, my editor had me back up and spell it out more clearly for the reader. That called for a new chapter.

Then I got to work revising.

After content revision, I uploaded each chapter individually to our shared Google drive.  For each chapter, my content editor and I had a back and forth dialogue in track changes. She pushed me. Hard.

When my content editor felt it was ready, she’d hand off the chapter to our line editor. Then, my line editor and I had the same back and forth track changes dialogue to polish each line.

At some point during the process, our editor-in-chief advised me to consider changing the title. Once we decided on FORTE — the title came to me in the shower! — our designer created my gorgeous cover. And my editor-in-chief perfected the ever-important blurb.

JD Spero_Bookmark_front-2

New bookmarks!

JD Spero_Bookmark_back-2

Author deets on other side!

When my line editor felt it was ready, it went on to the editor-in-chief for final approval. From there, it went to our proofer. Occasionally, I would be asked to change a line or something small, but mostly, my work was done. And I kind of missed it. Actually, I missed it a lot. From there, it went to our formatter, etc. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

Meanwhile, I got to work on the marketing plan. I worked on my press kit, contacted local papers and magazines, and reached out to some industry contacts to find ARC reviewers. I ordered new bookmarks and business cards, working with our awesome designer (same who did the cover).

JD Spero card front

My new business card – front!

books on back of business cards

My books featured on back of my new cards

Thus, July 25 will be a day to celebrate — FORTE’s book birthday — for years to come. And will add to the endless celebration already in my life in late July. This year, my youngest turns 5 July 23, my book launches July 25, our 12 year anniversary is July 26, and my oldest turns 10 July 27, and my official launch party is July 28. Bring on the champagne!


Stay tuned for details about the online blog tour. Also we have some cool launch events that should be super fun.

July 28, 2015 — Official launch party at Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga, NY

August 28, 2015 — Reading and signing at Jabberwocky Bookshop, Newburyport, MA

September 17, 2015 — Book club, Glens Falls, NY

November 19, 2015 — Authors & Artists at Samantha’s Cafe in Glens Falls, NY

See you there!

Let’s talk, teacher to teacher.

Today is my birthday. I’ve reached an age when birthdays aren’t quite as fun as they used to be. However, I’ve never been one to turn down an opportunity to celebrate.

And I have lots to celebrate.

Last night, I gave another presentation about my creative process, my book, and my experience in self-publishing. It was held at Samantha’s Cafe, where retro décor juxtaposed exposed brick walls, making it feel like a venue in TriBeCa rather than in Glens Falls. We had books there for sale, although many who attended not only had already read the book, but brought it for me to sign. And, although the room could have squeezed in more attendees, the tables were filled.


With my family as backdrop, I answer an FAQ: How do you find time to write?

Adrenaline kicked in and my presentation took off. I was passionate as ever about the subject matter, and eagerly shared my story with the group. When speaking about how I thought of the story, I paused to ask, “How many of you are teachers?”

Almost every person raised a hand.

I shared my story about student teaching without missing a beat; little did they know my heart had missed a few. Because, you see…This was what I’d been waiting for.

During a recent online interview, I was asked: How do you hope this book affects its readers?

My response? I hope to evoke an emotional reaction in my readers. I’m also eager to hear from academics, specifically American literature experts who know The Catcher in the Rye as well as I do. I hope they would appreciate the many Catcher references, and I hope they would find my characters believable.

Most in the room were high school English teachers, who acknowledged my references to Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye with reaffirming nods and appreciative smiles. Immediately after my talk, one teacher wanted to know if I’d be willing to present to such-and-such group.


“How about sich-and-such group?”

“I would love to!”

“What about sach-and-such?”


“Are you booking into 2015 or would you be able to do something in September?”

“Um…I think I can squeeze something in in September!” *happy belly-flies*

Then I was asked (by more than one teacher) to inscribe books not to individuals, but to schools where they planned to donate my book.

My heart nearly sprouted wings.

sam cafe

Speaking with Sue Merrill, QHS English teacher who taught “The Catcher in the Rye” for over 25 years.

One of the attendees happened to be my high school superintendent, Mr. Parker, who had reread The Catcher in the Rye in preparation for reading Catcher’s Keeper. During the Q&A, his nostalgia for Holden and his siblings was evident. I was particularly keen to hear what he thought of my book.

He approached me after my talk, my book opened to the very last page. I knew before looking what he was going to ask me about: the unfavorable review I’d received on an earlier version of the book, which is now part of the Discussion Questions at the end.

“What is this person saying here?” he asked.

“Well, this reviewer apparently hated The Catcher in the Rye and also hated Catcher’s Keeper.”

Mr. Parker looked at me as if I were still an impressionable teenager under his academic care.

“Well, I loved them both!” he said. He shared with me he’d be seeing my old guidance counselor and couldn’t wait to share it with him—and promptly made my night.

Here is my birthday wish: I want to share my book with schools. I want to visit schools, present to teachers and students who are studying American Literature. This is what I plan to offer exclusive to schools:

  • Author visit and presentation, tailored for high-school students
  • Author responses to discussion questions – including an unpublished (controversial) question
  • Teacher lesson plan, assessment, and key – focusing on Catcher references and parallels
  • Teacher lesson plan: banned book debate/activity

What do you say, teacher friends? Let’s work together now to put something on the calendar for the 2014-2015 academic year!

I’ll be waiting eagerly to hear from you. But for now, I have some candles to blow out.